The UK’s Unwritten Blasphemy Laws

Last week Sara Khan, who is the British government’s “adviser for social cohesion and resilience,” issued an official report detailing what she terms “freedom-restricting harassment,” that is, intimidation that makes people afraid to discuss certain topics. Praising Khan’s report, Nick Cohen writes that this harassment amounts to “a blasphemy law in the UK and the rest of the West.” This law is an unusual one:

No Parliament voted for it. No court enforces it. There is no presumption of innocence, and no possible appeal against conviction—even when the sentence is death.

Yet, writes Cohen, that makes it no less real, as the example, cited by Khan, of a teacher who showed his class pictures of Mohammad, the pope, and Jesus makes clear:

A parent of a child in the class called the teacher to say that the image of the prophet should not have been shown to pupils, before warning that “there will be repercussions.” Pictures of the teacher, his partner, his home, and car were shared on Instagram, Snapchat, and WhatsApp, alongside such exhortations as “let’s sort this out for the prophet” and “if u see him u know what to do.”

The school and the British state refused to treat the threats to the teacher as an attack on the principles of a free society. Far from defending him, the school suspended him, and said on no account was he to talk to his colleagues. Not content with that, they suspended two other teachers who had taught the same lesson. . . . The teacher contacted the police. So frightened was he by their insouciance, he and his family fled.

Read more at Writing from London

More about: European Islam, Freedom of Speech, Radical Islam, United Kingdom


Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship